Bill to notify victims of inmate’s location heads to governor

Author: Joey Bunch - April 9, 2018 - Updated: April 10, 2018

Correctional Sgt. Tim McGill patrols the north side of the security fence at Sterling Correctional Facility in Sterlin in 1999. (Gazette file photo)

Before Colorado’s legislative session started, state Rep. Cole Wist told Colorado Politics it wasn’t right that crime victims or their families put their heads on their pillows each night not knowing where the inmate is jailed.

He said that when an inmate is housed outside the state, victims and their families can go years without knowing where that person is, and in most cases there’s no good reason to keep that from them.

Monday, the Republican from Centennial gave them what he sought: peace of mind.

Senate Bill 14 passed the Colorado House unanimously Monday and heads to the governor’s desk to be signed into law. The bill sailed out of the Senate 33-0 on Jan. 29.

“Families should have the peace of mind of knowing where the person who harmed or killed a loved one is incarcerated,” Wist said in a statement. “This legislation is simply about transparency, and the unanimous support this bill received in both the House and Senate shows how important honoring victims is to this institution.”

The bill was co-sponsored in the House by Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, and it was carried in the Senate by two well-known advocates for victims’ right, Sens. John Cooke, R-Greeley, and Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora.

With Gov. John Hickenlooper’s signature, registered victims or family members would be notified within 48 hours whenever an inmate is moved.

There are exceptions, however, including when the inmate is a witness or other circumstances in which disclosing his or her location could pose a risk to the inmate, staff or others.

Prosecutors also could intervene in special circumstances, including when the inmate is a former law enforcement officer.

“This bill strikes an important balance that we haven’t had before,” Herod said. “In the past, DOC could essentially erase an inmate in that it could transfer an inmate without anyone knowing. This bill honors the victims’ right to know and balances that with inmate safety.”

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.